“Let’s go to the bookstore.”
“Okay, but let me make sure our Borders hasn’t closed too.”
Borders filed bankruptcy, we all know. But I could swear I got an email newsletter in January saying they wouldn’t close stores right away…until they started closing stores right away. Two closed in San Francisco, one that I frequented near work; luckily they hadn’t closed our nearest one. Then I found out – it, too, is closing, making the next closest bookstore to my house a mere 13 miles away. Not only are many Borders closing, but mega-giant Barnes and Nobles has closed a location or two, as well.
A brief history of bookstores: Moms and Pops had bookstores, then big chains (aka the man) created mega-bookstores and lots of mom and pop operations couldn’t compete with three-tiered behemoths filled with books and their accoutrement of coffee shops, poetry readings, guest speakers, and other monthly events. The little man went under or found a neighborhood niche. Fast forward to online subscriptions, magazines and news-om-tap availability. People stopped buying books. Introduce tools created for online downloading of content, like the Kindle or the Nook, and more people stopped buying books. Mega bookstores have started closing. Books may be bought at mom and pop bookstores, if any still exist. I think we will call this ‘a resurgence’ in the end.
Diehard that I am, though, I will hang on until the bitter end and drive to the next closest bookstore. Why? Because I love books.
Loving books is more than a good read; more than loving words or the English language. Loving books is the feeling of newness, where no corners are frayed or backs are broken. Standing in a bookstore is like being in front of thousands of doors that will open into someone’s imagination. Comedy and mystery, war and romance, fantasy and adventure are all contained within those walls, while I am on a scavenger hunt for clues leading me to the next story. I want to be surprised. I want to be influenced by editor’s picks, banned books from history, new releases and classics.
I get lost in bookstores, spending hours teasing my way through aisles of books and magazines. One of my favorite sections are cookbook magazines. I never buy any (ok, occasionally), but I play a game whereby if I open a page and the recipe is something I don’t eat – I should definitely not buy that magazine! (and if you’ve read It’s Whats for Dinner, you know my eating habits are particular)
If I’ve spent a lot of time browsing, but still don’t have a book picked out, I pick a random letter from the alphabet, go to the literature section, and by god, I will meticulously check every author until I find something.
I confess to being a snob, in that I prefer to read fiction that has won awards because all books are not equal. I love smelling the pages of a newly pressed book. I love jacket design and book flaps describing the premise of the book to pique your interest, without giving away anything important to the plot.
Standing in a room full of other book lovers, I feel a kindredness, alone and yet surrounded. By book lovers and books. It doesn’t get much better than that for an purposefully slow, enjoyable afternoon.
You can’t get these feelings (I think) using the kindle or the nook or the rest of the catchy online reading tools. (ummm….smell my LCD)
But if the bookstores keep closing, what do I do? Drive further. Buy books online if I am reduced to that, but browsing 30,000 meaningless icons on BN.com is not an enjoyable pastime. Tactile fingering of fragrant pages in vivid covers for an as-yet-unknown written treasure is.